Category: General

Business

The TOP 10 Women Angel Investors & Venture Capital…

Forerunner Ventures An early stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce

Women’s VC Fund The Fund capitalizes on the expanding pipeline of women entrepreneurs leading gender diverse teams and creating capital efficient, high growth companies in digital media and sustainable products and services.

Plum Alley  offer s it’s members select opportunities to invest in private companies along with custom experiences both on-line and off-line to collaborate, imagine and transform the world. See also Plum Alley Crowdfunding for Women

Belle Capital an early stage fund that invests in high growth companies in underserved capital markets across the USA.

Built By Girls (BBG) Ventures An early stage fund focused on consumer internet and mobile start ups with at least one female founder.  

Pipeline Angels Pipeline Angels is a network of new and seasoned women investors who are changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs. Pipeline Angels holds a signature bootcamp for new investors and a signature pitch summit for startups looking for funding.

Portfolia The Portfolia platform lets entrepreneurs profile their companies to investors globally and streamlines the fundraising process.  Portfolia welcomes innovative companies in the conceptual through growth stages, especially those where a national base of sophisticated and connected investors can impact success and build markets.

Cowboy Ventures Cowboy Ventures helps seed-stage technology companies grow. They back exceptional founders who are building products that “re-imagine” work and personal life in large and growing markets.

Golden Seeds A discerning group of investors, seeking and funding high-potential, women-led businesses.

The Tory Burch Foundation  Founded in 2009, the Tory Burch Foundation aims to support the empowerment of women entrepreneurs. The foundation has developed programs and initiatives that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned small businesses by providing: Access to Capital, Entrepreneurial Education, Mentoring and Networking Opportunities

Kickstarter and/or IndieGoGo – Don’t underestimate the powers of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for startup and seed funding.  I have personally raised funds through both of these platforms and it works!  But there are a few Crowdfunding tips you’ll need to know and follow for a successful campaign.

 

What is the cost of social media marketing? Business

What is the cost of social media marketing?

 

How much does social media marketing cost?  That seems to be a burning question everyone is asking.  Ok, now don’t freak out…

But the short of the long of it is:

A minimum of $2,500-$5,000 on average per month, depending on where your target audience is and what you want to achieve.

Sometimes, you have to pay extra for PR or blog content writing. A lot of those $2,500K-$5K prices may or may not be all-inclusive deals.  And it’s not unusual to find many agencies who charge $10,000 per month for social media marketing & management.  

According to some data findings, the cost to create and establish just a new Twitter account with targeted Followers and a little bit of content is anywhere from $2K-$7,500.
So I guess the average $2,500-$5,000 isn’t so bad when you consider the fact that some agencies charge $5,000 – just to manage your Facebook account. Nothing else.
Just Facebook.

$5,000 per month for a Social Media Marketer seems “high” because we spend so much time online, doing just that: interacting socially and participating in social media.  Our perception of social media is “fun time”,  it hasn’t registered to us that this is THE advertising platform. 

Wherever the audience is, advertising follows. Once it was Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV.  Now, it’s online through our news and blogger channels and our Social Media feeds.

If we can look at it from a media platform we are used to, such as Magazines, we can truly see the value and the difference: We have magazine readers, and we have magazine creators.

We don’t see all of the behind-the-scenes magic that happens to make that content available and in our face. That is what advertising is, and what Social Media Marketing is all about.

Ok, I get it.   But.. Why so much?

Let’s break it down:

  • Graphics and Social Media Ad Creatives  The cost of social media graphics and ad creatives – this includes a professional graphic designer with marketing knowledge to create visual ads that deliver results.  There is a psychology behind an ad creative that works. This isn’t the job for just any Joe Schmo Photoshop Pro when it comes to creating a fine-tuned ad creative. The average salary of a Graphic Designer is anywhere from $45-$60K per year, with some earning as much as $75K.
  • Market research  This is a very important aspect of advertising.  You have to zero in on your target audience. It makes no sense to shoot your product out into the universe if it’s not aimed at the right audience.  Market research answers: Who is your audience, what do they want, what are the buying, what do they respond to, where do they hang out and who are your competitors?
  • Ad rates The costs of promoting you or your business. Ad rates are generally included in a market budget, and an average and conservative cost can be anywhere from $250-$500 month for Twitter and Facebook Ads alone.
  • PR Writing and crafting the perfect pitches, reaching out to Bloggers, Editors, Magazines, Influencers and even celebrities.  This aspect is HARD WORK. A lot of PR agents I know charge $5K per month, just for PR.  Nothing else.
  • Creating Marketing Campaigns, Calendars + Strategies. Sometimes creating a marketing campaign can take days (or even weeks) to not only research and plan, but to write it out. (One simple 3 month marketing campaign I created a few weeks ago took me over 16 hours to research, create and write.) This takes a lot of time, but executed well, it pays off.
  • Writing Press Releases
  • Writing Blog Posts – Rich content blog posts are worth their weight in gold to the tune of saving you about $250,000 in Google Adwords costs. A well-written blog post with organic traffic can harness as much, if not more traffic, as an expensive Google Adwords campaign. One single blog post I wrote in 2011 has generated 256,000 hits for my blog so far.  If I would have paid the average $1 CPC (Cost-per-Click) with Google Adwords, it would have cost me $256,000! 😮
    Blog writers know their stuff when it comes to SEO, and they craft their posts to maximize search results.  According to ClicktoTweet and HubSpot, “Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic”.  A good blog writer will charge around .45 cents per word on average, so a 1,000 word post is $450. For example, this post you’re reading right now is 1,326 words (or about $600).
  • Social Media Manager A full time (daily) social media manager to monitor your accounts, create engaging posts, interact, respond to positive (and negative) feedback across all channels.  I’m talking about a dedicated person who not only knows the ins and outs of social media, but one who works on all your social media accounts all day (Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook), and knows how to track and analyze the data.  This is a full time job and if you were to pay him or her a salary, it would probably cost you a minimum of $45K/yr. ($3,750/mo)


What the hell? Now, I’m kinda bummed.

If you already have an established Twitter or Facebook account, it could be a little more cost effective, because you won’t have to start from scratch and what you’ll need is a social media manager to maintain and manage your accounts: (i.e. keep them flowing, interact, grow your followers, establish relationships, and build brand awareness).  So, If you were to hire someone full time to manage your account, not create contests, promotions or ads, it would most likely cost a minimum of $40K per year, which is a salary of $3,300/mo.
(If you want someone part time, you can probably find a SMM who is good at what he/she does and is just starting out.)

 

Snapchat_Logo

$750,000

This is how much Snapchat costs per ‘Brand Story’ ad, which is a branded post that appears within the app’s ‘Stories’ feed.
(update: 12/2015 The minimum budget for advertising on Snapchat recently dropped from $700,000+ to $100,000)

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Scared yet?  Don’t be.  Advertising has always been costly but it’s vital to business growth.
And sometimes, businesses just aren’t ready yet.

People scratch their heads in confusion when things aren’t selling, or when customers aren’t responding.  I’ve been there before.  I’d think, “I’m doing everything right!” when the truth is, I was just not giving enough to my marketing budget or plan.

We all want to see fantastic results, but what we don’t see is the costs associated with the results we want.  And it can be overwhelming at first, but once the momentum starts, it all starts working pretty harmoniously.  Better budget for advertising = more sales = more advertising budget = even more sales, etc.

“It’s nearly impossible to do PR and Social Media Marketing on your own, unless you have tons of time, are super-savvy (creatively), and have a team to help out.
Make sure you budget anywhere from 15-20% of your annual income for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.   Meanwhile, you see competitors with the same products as you doing it and going global.  If you want to succeed, there is no other choice. It needs to be a financial priority in your business plan and must be factored in as a cost to doing business”.

In the quickly moving digital world we now live in, we simply can’t wait for our audience and business to come to us. Social media is where all of the attention is these days. We stream Netfix online, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon.  We are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is where the audience of the world is today, and if you aren’t finding a way to reach them through these channels, you’re kind of on another planet.  If you take your business seriously, find a way to either amp up your social media marketing time per day or hire a professional to help you grow your business.  You honestly can’t afford not to.

 

Fashion

15 Ways to Think Like Coco #Chanel and Be…

Coco Chanel was a exceptional woman who became one of the most influential designers in the fashion world. When I think of her, I imagine her to be this driven, independent, slightly withdrawn and cranky woman.

Abandoned by her father when she was a girl, and raised in a convent probably emphasized her need for self-sufficiency. Being born in an era where most women weren’t on their own financially, set her apart. She never wanted to be with a man out of financial need, although she was accepting of the help she received along the way from the male suitors in her life.  I find some parts of her story to be a little vague, but one doesn’t have to look too hard to see that Coco Chanel was a successful woman. And here’s why:

  1. “I don’t care what you think about me.  I don’t think about you at all”.
    She didn’t really care what people thought. Period.
  2. “A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
    She wanted to be who she wanted to be, and she wanted to do what she wanted to do. She did not waste her time or energy being concerned about other people’s opinions of her (see #1).
  3. “Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
    She understood her worth.  She believed in herself beyond belief. She knew she was talented and had every bit of opportunity as the next person. She didn’t let negative self-talk dictate her life.
  4. “My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
    She didn’t let her past create her future. Although she grew up in an orphanage, she knew her life story was waiting to be written. She never let her humble beginnings be her obstacle, but a driving force to create the life she wanted.
  5. “I wanted to give a woman comfortable clothes that would flow with her body. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.”
    She wasn’t afraid of taking risks, nor did she let people intimidate her or sway her creative direction. Coco created clothes she wanted to wear, she created clothing that she knew women wanted.  Her ideas were radical for the times and there were many people who didn’t understand the way she did things, but she remained true to her visions and stuck with it. (And it paid off!)
  6. “I don’t do fashion, I AM fashion.”
    She believed in her craft, she embodied her work heart and soul. Quality and personal creativity was one of her top priorities. She wasn’t going to sell her soul just for the sake of higher profits.  Her name was attached to every piece she made, and she was known for a relentless drive for perfection, whether in construction, design or fit. She had a strong opinion in all matters of style and taste, and backed her clothing with authority.
  7. “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” She knew when to let go.  When her life wasn’t taking the shape she wanted, she knew how to recognize it, let go and move on-even if it meant letting go of a cushy life. She wasn’t one to waste time and energy beating a wall and waiting for it to turn into a window.
  8. “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
    Speak up.  She was not afraid to speak her mind.  There was probably never a question of Coco’s position or opinion on something.
  9. “It’s probably not just by chance that I’m alone. It would be very hard for a man to live with me, unless he’s terribly strong.”
    Independence was very important to her, and she knew her emotional limitations. She knew that living a life where she had to compromise what she wanted meant she wouldn’t have her freedom.  For Coco, being with a man out of need was not an option.  She was hellbent to make it on her own, or not at all. Once her business became financially successful without the help of Boy Capel, she stated, “I was my own master, and I depended on myself alone”.
  10. She believed in magic. If you visit Coco’s apartment in Paris, it is as it was when she lived there: lucky symbols are everywhere, such as a frog with its mouth open and a crystal placed inside (a symbol of love, luck, money and health), pairs of Japanese deer and wheat motifs (a sign of prosperity) are scattered across the apartment.She believed in the healing power of crystals, so there are crystal chandeliers in every room.  Lions are also scattered throughout, a reference to her sign, the Leo. Mirrors placed on the walls are octagonal in shape, which was also significant. The shape of the stopper for the Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle was also octagon, and even the number “5” of her perfume has special meaning in Numerology. The number 5 is the most dynamic and energetic of all the single-digit numbers. It is unpredictable, always in motion and constantly in need of change. Sometimes believing in the magic that we possess will get us over humps when we feel like quitting.
  11. “There is nothing worse than solitude. Solitude can help a man realize himself; but it destroys a woman.”
    She believed in surrounding herself with inspirational and like-minded friends. She befriended artists such as Dali, Picasso, Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Cocteau, Jean Renoir, Visconti – all of whom she collaborated with.  It’s well-known that Coco didn’t like to be alone. Find your “tribe”, and you will watch wonders unfold creatively.
  12. “There is a time for work, and a time for love. That leaves no other time.”
    She knew how to manage her time and energy. She knew what was most important to her and she neither deviated from that or tried to combine them all. As a business woman, Coco wasn’t one to waste valuable resources with endeavors that did not serve her higher purpose. Her only focus in life was her vision, her brand, her company (and occasionally love).  What are your priorities?
  13. “Luxury for yourself” Chanel believed in pampering herself.  Don’t be afraid to be a little selfish sometimes. When we feel spent, and our venture feels like it’s failing, we have to look at our life and see where our daily energies are going.  Chances are, you probably aren’t devoting enough of your time to yourself, or to what YOU want to do, because you’re too busy trying to do too many things, or you’re too busy cleaning up everyone else’s mess.  Focus on taking care of yourself, and on the things you want to accomplish, and don’t be afraid to tell others “I’m sorry, I just don’t have the bandwidth”.
  14. “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
    Simplicity without “decision fatigue”.  Coco was known for her simple, but elegant design aesthetic. She didn’t overcomplicate her designs because that wasn’t who she was.  Most days, Coco wore black, because it was simple, elegant and easy.  She was, what we’d now call the “Capsule Movement Wardrobe”.  It’s the trait of highly successful people like Mark Zuckerberg and Barak Obama, for example. In an interview, President Obama stated, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”In a 1969 interview with Micheline Sandrel, Chanel was asked, “You have this suit, this Chanel on you, what else do you have nowadays in your own wardrobe?” Coco Chanel: Two suits I’ve had for three years, a beige one and the one I wore yesterday, with a small pattern, three is good.
  15. “In order to be irreplaceable one must be different” Don’t spend so much time trying to do what’s working for others, or do what you think will sell. Follow your passion, explore your own talents and ideas, no matter how different they may seem from mainstream.  Carve your own path.  After all, there was only one Coco and there is only one YOU.
Business

7 Crucial Elements For Crowdfunding Success

So, you have a magnificent idea or product. Now what? With the popular crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, the world is your oyster and the possibilities for success seem endless. I have been following crowdfunding for the last 3+ years, observing the wildly successful campaigns and also ones that weren’t quite so successful. After having one of my campaigns miss it’s goal, I went back to the drawing board and dug in to as much crowdfunding tips and research as I could get my hands on.

When my second campaign first launched, my inbox was flooded with everyone from Kickstarter campaign gurus to PR agencies and Fiverrs. Everyone wanted to help make it successful. At a price, of course. But I was on a zero budget, so I did it all myself. The campaign was a success but I learned a lot. Through trial and error, along with determination, I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.

1. Get Social! Make sure you have a strong network, online and off. Build up your social crowd and establish yourself and your brand/product first before launching. Let everyone in on your secret and get them excited, pre-launch. Talk to people, get to know them. In other words, make sure you are well connected and plugged in to your social connections. I would aim for at least 1,000 in your network. Facebook is still a great resource, but tap into Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. It’s like any business: if no one knows you exist, how can they support your project?

2. Look and Feel – Is your campaign click-worthy? First of all, make sure your MAIN image looks awesome. This is the image that everyone sees first. If it’s appealing to the eye, you’ll get that click you want. You want it to stand out. A clear photo of your product, or an appealing image that showcases your project is key.

Make sure your campaign page looks attractive and cohesive as well. Pictures tell a thousand words. I have discovered that too many words in a campaign can bore an audience. We are living in a digital age where we are more stimulated with quick posts and pictures. You can provide all the info you want, but make it easy to read. Take some inspiration from various infographics and think of creative ways to get your message through quickly.

If you are not much of a graphics guru, that’s OK. Ask a graphics designer for assistance with this.

3. Your Video This can be tricky and expensive if you don’t know a videographer or editor. If you have a budget to hire a videographer, that’s great! If you are doing a DIY video, make sure your video has good sound (I goofed on this one with a cheap radio shack mic). Create a visual story, tell everyone about your project in 30-60 seconds or less. Let your project evoke a mood or inspire your audience. Be yourself. It doesn’t need to be fancy. If you are not comfortable being on camera, a video or photo montage with your voice-over is good too!

4. Rewards Offer a variety of pledge amounts, but don’t get too complicated. I have found that less can be more on Kickstarter. Too many options, and people can get a little confused. The $16-$25 rewards are a nice sweet spot. However, I also realize a product that is more expensive is well worth it to Backers, especially if it’s a project they believe in. Also, never underestimate the power of the $1 reward! I have seen quite a few projects with over a 1,000+ $1 Backers.

5. PR and Blogger Outreach is as equally important as the product you create and vital to maintaining a steady flow of traffic to your project campaign. If you plan to do your own PR, make sure you have created some kind of social media rapport before pitching your product to an editor, even if it’s just to Share or Re-Tweet an interesting news article they have written. Make sure you are targeting the right blogs, magazines, etc. Have a list of the contacts ready to go before you launch. Send the e-mails out before you launch and offer exclusive “first dibs” press. Send them info on your project along with the website or Kickstarter preview link. Emails are the best way to reach editors. Make the emails personal. Canned, lengthy templates are not a wise choice. And make sure you follow up! (If the email addresses are not available online, you can call and ask for the specific editors’ email address if it is a magazine like Conde Nast or Hearst Publications).

Related:  How to Do Blogger Outreach and PR

Make sure you understand the amount of time it’s going to require to reach out to the right bloggers, editors, etc. It doesn’t end when the campaign goes live. Write, Send, Follow-up and Repeat. (Getting friends to help you with this is also highly recommended). I think I must have sent 30 emails out before I got an interview and write up with Fast Company. Be diligent and don’t give up! It WILL pay off.

6. Extra Marketing Funds Set aside some funds for help in Social Marketing/PR. Even if it’s only $500-$700, make sure you have some funds for this. There are a lot of social media ad promotions you may want to take advantage of (i.e. Google, Twitter, Facebook). There are also individual PR agents and agencies out there who offer crowdfund-specific packages at reasonable rates.

7. Social “Auto-Pilot” and Organization Get familiar with social media platforms such as Bit.ly, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. These are excellent tools to help you get organized and track your interactions to see what platform works and who is listening. Also, it will do you some good to have these platforms working for you on autopilot while you (hopefully!) sleep. There is a whole other side of the world that is up while we sleep and we can’t forget to include them.

Some say there is no real secret sauce for Kickstarter success, other than having a strong network and tons of views. I have seen marshmallow projects go crazy, underwear sell like it’s a hot commodity and wallets hit (and miss). I think the product has to be a good one, but I also think people are looking to connect with a project and the creator. It’s more than just products people want. They want to feel like they are a part of something that moves them, whether it be in a fun, creative, humorous or philanthropic way.

I would love to hear about your Crowdfunding experiences!  Please comment and let me know what has worked for you!

Business

How to Make Money As A Fashion Blogger

Nobody believes a blogger can make any money, let alone $1 Million a year. If you ask most people, they will say, “Don’t quit your day job”, or “That’s just a pipe dream.”, or my favorite:

“Blogging?  That’s not a “real” job, it’s a hobby, right?” 

I don’t know, just ask Aimee Song, The Man Repeller or the Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad, who by the way, pulled in a reported $8 Million in 2015.  And those are the top fashion bloggers right now.  Think about even the successful bottom tier bloggers and what they are making.  According to research, the average blogger with 40,000+ page views per month are pulling in anything from: $5,000 to  $40,000+ per month.  You read that correctly.

Still think you can’t make money blogging? 

My Tween Fashion Blog makes a good chunk of change and has over 44,000 visitors per month. And I don’t really feel like I do anything. Or, at least all I could be doing.

How?

I’ll be happy to tell you. First of all, most of the advice you’ll read out there is crap or outdated.  All of that “AdSense monetizing your blog” info is complete nonsense.  Monetizing your blog does nothing for you except clutter up your content with annoying, irrelevant ads.  The money you get in return is pennies —literally.

For example, do you see any giant ads on this site, or on my Tween Fashion Blog?

Not really.  There’s a reason why.

I am a Fashion Designer and Business Fashion Consultant.  My blogs are my platforms to offer my expert opinions, reviews, advice and products. I have been designing professionally since 2003, and I have been marketing and selling online since 1999. In fact, I began my fashion career in similar ways as Sophia Amoruso, Founder of Nasty Gal. 

I began buying and re-selling clothes on eBay in 1999.  I would visit my local thrift stores and find used, designer and vintage clothes to resell through my eBay store.  By 2001, I had worked my way up to buying and reselling in large quantities, and importing stocklots from factories overseas.  In fact, one month I made $60,000 in sales.  After only one year in business I had sourced and collected literally hundreds of businesses across the USA who were wholesale apparel sellers, liquidators, outlets and resources for B2B sales.  And then I realized there were thousands of new eBay sellers every day begging for information that I had to source their inventory.  I realized I was sitting on very valuable information. I compiled my first Wholesale Apparel eBook and sold it online through my first ecommerce site I built with Dreamweaver. I sold a lot of these at $49 each.  A lot.

You see, Bloggers don’t make most of their money selling ad space or earning dimes for clicks. Bloggers are essentially teachers, and fashion bloggers are a branded platform.  What they sell are their ideas, a feeling, expertise and eventually products. Fashion Bloggers are the experts and trendsetters in their field. They start with rich, relevant content to target their audience and work their way into building up that audience to — you guessed it: sell their product, or sell other people’s products. Chiara Ferragni started off as a ‘Look of the Day’ gal in 2009, but she now has her own collection and a few million per year with The Chiara Ferragni collection. THAT is where her money comes from my darlings.

That is where I am these days.  I no longer work for any corporate entity except for my own.

If you are reading this, you have probably dug into every piece of information you could get your hands on about quitting your job and making a living blogging.  But the truth is, until you figure out how to sell what you know,  you probably aren’t going to make money blogging. Building up your readership is key. And you can’t build up that readership if you aren’t providing information that’s useful or relevant.

People want information.  And information sells. Stories are great, but stories don’t make bloggers wealthy–unless they turn the story into a tangible product (a book, or movie).  

Fashion provides a steady, constant moving stream of information.  People want to know what boots are hot this season, what dress to wear to the holiday party, what to wear, how they should style their hair, etc.  This is where the fashion blogger comes in.  

For me, my blog provides info on the best brands, the best stores, what’s trending, what’s awesome and what sucks.  And my niche happens to be the Tween, Girls and Juniors market. Yours may be completely different, but that’s up to you to decide and refine.

My head is full of useful information. I have been involved with the fashion industry for 16 years and a fashion designer for over 10 years.  I have taken my knowledge and skills and transferred that energy into teaching what I know, creating products and helping others create their own collections or products.  

Your head is full of useful information, too. Stick to what you know. And it can be niche, too. Gary Vaynerchuk’s niche was wine.

If you take some of what I learned and apply it to your blog, it’ll pay off for you.

You can make money blogging. A million bloggers out there can’t be wrong. What everyone wants is information. All the time. And of course you can be the person they come to for that information.  

So, here’s the beginning to what you need to know to get started making money as a blogger.

Lesson #1:  Realize You’re Not “Just a Fashion Blogger”

You’re an expert, a teacher, a mentor. Your blog is simply a springboard for all of those things. Perhaps you can offer more than just daily posts, right?  You have a bigger goal, a bigger vision, it’s just not incubated long enough.  But it will.  Keep your head and your eye on the bigger picture.

Look around, and you’ll find nearly all fashion bloggers who make a decent income have an active Instagram account full of fantastic product and lifestyle shots, fashion show attendance, product endorsements, their own fashion collections, books, a consulting or trend forecasting business, side gigs etc.  THAT is how they make money. Their blog and their Instagram account is just the platform where they introduce themselves, give away cool stuff or talk about the things that spark interest to attract followers, customers or clients.

Interesting ideas and perspective, coupled with rich content = Followers, which equals audience.  And as we all know, audience = influence = $$$

Lesson #2: Don’t Sell Advertising

Selling ads can be attractive, because it’s income that generates without you really doing anything, but it’s generally minimal unless it’s ad space bought by a big brand.  (Or you have a million followers and you are using a platform like RewardStyle.me to sell OPP – Other people’s products).

So, unless your ad space is purchased from someone like Gucci or Prada, say “nada”.
Why push someone else’s product for pennies, if you can make 5-10 x more money using that same “ad space” to sell your own products or services?  At the very least, promote an affiliate product that is either cohesive with your blog theme (i.e. health and wellness, fitness, high fashion, etc.) or a brand that you love -and one that will make you a significant profit per month. 

For example, try signing up with shareasale.com or Rakuten Marketing.  Some fashion brands will pay up to 20% commissions in sales. When I first started out, I signed up for big brands for the names, but they barely paid 3% commissions and although I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth,  it just didn’t add up.  I discovered after my first year that I had been pushing their brand and watching their sales increase based on my efforts, and I was literally getting a few dollars in return. In the first year as an affiliate, I generated 1.3 million impressions and $17,200 in sales. My commission for that was peanuts ($605).

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 3.21.28 PM
Example of Affiliate Program Sales

What I realized was if I applied that same effort to my own products, I could make what they were making.  Viola!  Do you see how it works?

People were coming in for my content, but spending dollarinos elsewhere.

If you do choose to go with affiliate marketing (until you get your own product, of course), set your baseline commission standards to at least 15% or don’t waste your time.  Your time is extremely valuable. Crafting awesome posts takes you hours, and pushing a brand for pennies is just not worth it.

After all, your goal is to make $50,000 per month right? Right!

Stop working for free (Unless it’s an exceptional opportunity to build your own brand or is an action in direct alignment with your end goal)

Now, If you consider the possibility of a $25,000 month of sales for all of your affiliates combined, and your baseline is 15%  Your monthly commission is $3,750.  Makes a bit of difference, doesn’t it?

I reiterate, you CAN make money as a blogger.

On my blog, I mostly promote my own brand, products and services now, but I am also in the process of writing a book about How to Market Your Brand.  The bottom line: Think bigger than ad space or paid reviews. Sure, you may get free stuff and that’s totally fine if you’re going for that. Free stuff is fun but it’s not going to allow you to quit your day job and really earn a living blogging, or send you and your family on vacation. So if your goal is to earn a 6-figure income blogging, set your standards high.

CONTENT IS THE NEW SOCIAL CURRENCY

Lesson #3:  Build Your Content

You’re an expert, give the world your expert knowledge.  Don’t hammer your readers with sales pitches, or too many ‘buy me, buy me’ posts.  Your whole point for being here is to offer valuable information.  The good, the bad, the ugly – Not a car salesman pitch at every turn. Be polite. It’s much better to build relationships and trust by giving readers some valuable content before you begin talking about or pushing your products and services. Yes, you might make less money in the short term, but the long-term profits are so worth it.  

In the Fashion world, photos are everything.  So, make sure you partner with a good photographer who can work with you often to create the overall look and mood of the clothes you may be presenting.  Reach out to stylists and brands to collaborate.  I cannot stress enough the need to collaborate.  It is vital, especially if you are going for stylistic shoots, and highlighting products.

Lesson #4: Don’t Be The “Bottleneck”

Time is your biggest obstacle as a blogger. There just isn’t enough of it.  Not only are we expected to publish a continuous stream of photos on Instagram and publish content on our blogs, but we also have to make time to create creative assets, giveaways and promotions, schedule styling shoots – if you do that sort of thing, deal with technical issues, read books and articles about the industry, design, create new products to sell (I certainly do, anyhow) and answer questions from readers.  Did I mention social media management also?  The list really goes on and on for days.  It is more than a full-time job, and you have to be prepared to put in the work.

Many days, my job as a Designer and managing my business starts at 6:30 AM and doesn’t end until about 8 PM.  I have found myself literally doing E V E R Y T H I N G.

But you will learn quickly, and maybe you already have, that you CAN’T do everything.
You just can’t. And you shouldn’t if you want to succeed as a fashion blogger.

So, what’s the answer?

Your job as a fashion blogger is a lot like the manufacturing process. If one machine is down or working slower than others in a factory, it can literally cost the company tens of thousands of dollars per hour. If something slips up and a batch of tees get dyed the wrong color because someone was overworked, it will cost another several hundred thousand dollars. 

To make sure snags don’t happen, manufacturers and brands have Product Developers and Production Managers,  Why?  Because they are worth every penny of their $100K+ per year salary, and they  eliminate these snags or “bottlenecks”.

The same is true for us, except the solutions are a little different.  We will want to focus in the area(s) where we are the most bottlenecked and find a solution to free up that valuable time.  We might sign up for a service or purchase a new software that automates some of our social media work flow, or we might hire an assistant. It can be expensive, yes, but it’s worthwhile if it saves you time. because you can then dedicate that extra time to higher value activities that yield better ROI.

Lesson #5:  Time is Money

Put a price on high value activities.  What are “high value activities” anyway?

Well, it depends on your goal. If your goal is to increase your blog traffic, then start measuring the ‘visitors per hour invested’. For example, if you invest three hours in writing a post or shooting a post for Instagram and it brings you 100 visitors, and you invest five hours in writing a guest post (or collaborating with another Instagrammer) which brings you 500 visitors, the first post has an hourly rate of 33 visitors per hour. The second post has an hourly rate of 100 visitors per hour. Guest posting and/or collaborating with an established blogger, therefore, is a better use of your time than writing content on your own blog (in the beginning).

Anticipation builds momentum.

Consider the possibility of building up your content and following before launching your blog.  The last thing you want to do is post regular content if nobody is reading.  Get you visitors and followers ready with a ‘coming soon’ page and collect emails for the next 30, 60 or 90 days while you build out your blog, take photos, create content and make connections with other bloggers as a Guest Contributor.  I took this strategy with my Berry Jane website and the response was astounding.  I had a ‘coming soon’ page up for three months before launching and I was able to grow my email list to nearly 1,000 in no time flat.  

Lesson #6:  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ may be a waste of time.

Wait, does this mean having followers in those places is useless?   No. Facebook is OK because you can advertise to your followers. Google+ can help boost your search engine rankings. Even with those benefits though, it shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list. In my opinion, you shouldn’t think about them at all until you hit 10,000 followers/subscribers, and then you can outsource the social media management to someone else. Use your time more efficiently in other places, such as Instagram, YouTube, Stylish Shots, Product Reviews and Writing Longer Content.

Why longer content?

Longer content gets much more traffic, and is more SEO friendly than shorter content.  The sweet spot seems to be about 2,000–3,000 words per post (This post, for example, is appx. 2,817 words).

Lesson #7:  Promote, Promote, Promote!

Promote the heck out of your content.  I’m not talking about just sharing your posts to your Followers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’m talking about blogger outreach. Build relationships with influencers and asking them to share your work.

You should spend just as much time on blogger outreach as you do creating your own content. So, if you’re spending 5 hours a week writing blog posts, you should be spending 5 hours a week on outreach too.

It comes back to TIME.  When your blog is new, the most efficient uses of your time is: building relationships with influencers (including guest blogging), creating content worth linking to, and selling your products and services. I have worked with a broad range of brands and companies from Maddie Ziegler to Simon and Schuster, Pac Sun and even Dollar Shave Club. 

If you follow just those three things well, not only will your blog gain traffic and prominence, but you’ll also start getting search traffic (organically) without doing anything.

Lesson #8: Build Your Email List.  It’s More Important Than You Realize

In my experience, your email list is the most accurate predictor of how much money you’ll make blogging.

A successful Blogger makes around $3 per subscriber per month. If you’re new to this, I would aim for $1 per subscriber per month in sales. In other words, an email list of 1,000 subscribers should result in at least $1,000 per month in sales, 10,000 subscribers would result in $10,000 per month and so on.

The more subscribers you get, the more money you make. If course, your relationships, quality of content and products are key for success.

Sell “You”

Don’t just turn your blog into a big sales pitch. I see that with so many bloggers and it gets annoying fast, plus its just not very personal.  And “personal” is what got a lot of these fashion bloggers where they are today.  They created content that made followers feel connected.  I see this with Aimee Song.  We love to see her photos on Instagram, but her blog and Instagram account is basically a show and tell platform to sell what she’s wearing.

Be real and personable. Sell your knowledge and ideas, but don’t become just a machine for selling. 
Nobody likes that.

Remember to keep offering something your audience wants and needs. I’m interested to hear your comments on this subject and see what has worked for you, and what hasn’t!  If you’re just starting out, keep plugging away.  Starfruit takes time to ripen.  

You’ve got this.

Business

What Is Blogger Outreach & How Do I Do…

In a nutshell, “Blogger Outreach” is the act of reaching out to bloggers to collaborate or mention your product or posts.  And it’s really simple, you just need to follow a few rules.

 

PR and Blogger Outreach is as equally important as the product you create, and vital to promoting your product and maintaining a steady flow of traffic to your website. It is very time consuming, but highly rewarding when you do get a press write up, mention, blogger collaboration, or editorial placement. If you are financially able, hiring someone to do PR and Blogger Outreach for you is ideal.  This task alone can be a full time job, and if you don’t have the time, you will be missing a very crucial element to success. 

So if you can’t hire someone yet, you will need to bite the bullet and DIY it for a while.

At first it can be very intimidating for someone who has never done PR and Blogger Outreach but I assure you, it’s not that hard, you really just need to know a few do’s and don’ts –and be prepared to work your butt off.

Make sure you understand the amount of time it’s going to require to reach out to the right bloggers, editors, etc. It’s an ongoing effort that doesn’t end, and you will need to make a schedule so you can devote time to outreach as well as creating your content (or a product, whichever it is you do).

Create, Research, Write, Send, Follow-up and Repeat.

I think I must have sent 30 emails out before I got an interview and write up with Fast Company about my bicycle bag project. Be diligent and don’t give up! It WILL pay off. 

If you plan to do your own PR, make sure you are currently creating or have created some kind of social media rapport before pitching your product to an influencer or editor, even if it’s just to Comment, Share or Re-Tweet an interesting news article they have written.

Make sure you are targeting the right blogs, magazines, etc.

Know Thy Writer. You can send email after email, but unless you research and “get to know” the writer and learn exactly what they cover, you’re wasting your time. For example, if you’re marketing a yoga wear product, don’t just reach out to general fashion bloggers, find those that focus on healthy living, yoga lifestyle, sustainable clothing, etc.

You can find and conduct research by going through sites such as Bloglovin’, and searching for relevant bloggers, reading their posts and then taking notes  of their content that map to your product.  Make a spreadsheet to keep track.  

You can also contact bloggers in a more “automated” way, by using tools such as BuzzStream or HARO that save the time it takes to do influencer outreach. Another option is to outsource your PR / Blogger outreach by contacting one of many independent, professional Social Media Managers (freelancers) or agencies that represent bloggers who can manage the outreach campaigning on your behalf.

Once you know your target influencers, make a list of the contacts you’d like to reach out to. Emails are the best way to reach influencers, bloggers, editors. Make the emails concise and personal. Sending canned, lengthy,  impersonal, copy-and-paste templates are a  big ‘no-no’.  We know when an email is a copy-and-paste and it’s not only offensive but it just feels like SPAM. If you need a guideline, I have provided one for you to use as a reference point.

This first email here can be used for blogger outreach if you are wanting to do a collaboration:


 

Hey/Dear/Hello _________, (use first names, never write ‘Dear Editor’)

My name is [YOUR NAME]  and I’m the Social Media Community Manager at [YOUR BLOG NAME]. I came across your site and couldn’t help but appreciate a number of your posts. Feel free to add the title of a particular post here that you enjoyed.

[The pitch: With winter upon us it can be difficult to maintain clear and healthy looking skin. The frigid air takes its toll making our exposed skin dry, cracked, itchy and irritated. It’s this time of year, more than ever, when we need to take extra measures to battle back against the cruel cold.]  You will want to write your own copy here, based on the subject or project you’re working on.  

We’d love the chance to hear about you and your thoughts on [subject (i.e. winter skin care]. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in and I’ll happily provide you with some more information!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon 🙂

-YOUR NAME


 

Basic guidelines for this initial email:

  • The first email you send should be quick and to the point.
  • Include relevant, supporting links.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you’re presenting, but don’t feel as though you need to write everything all at once.  
  • Make it easy for them to send a quick yes response by ending the email with a “Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in and I’ll happily provide you with some more information!”  or a quick, “Is this something you would be interested in?”

If they are interested, they will write back.  Remember, keep it concise. If you don’t get to your point within the second or third sentence, you’ve probably lost her. Many of us use Gmail, so what grabs us or loses us is in the main subject line of the email. So make sure your subject line reads like a catchy headline to grab attention.

If and when you hear back from the editor or blogger, have your follow-up email prepared which outlines the details of your collaboration post, product, project, etc. 

Again, keep it simple and to the point. Your message needs to be as concise as possible. Everyone is fighting for enough hours and minutes in the day.  Don’t write your emails like I write blog posts. 🙂  Follow the KISS rules: ‘Keep it Simple, Stupid’.  

Here is a good  example of a follow up email I received a while back from a prominent company:

Hi Ava,

So nice to hear from you! Thanks for taking a minute to get back to me and letting us know that you’re interested. 😀

We’ve been talking a lot about [subject currently being pitched and discussed for blog submission]. To inform the public about [current subject], we created this helpful article but we also want to know what ideas, tips and techniques you might have in mind.

We’d love for you to join in on the conversation and share a post on your blog that highlights [subject of blog post]. For example: [Provide subject examples, headline suggestions, etc.]

In order to further spread awareness, we’re going to be promoting a number of these posts via social media and putting together a fun Pinterest Board and Instagram posts to go along with the initiative.

If you have any questions about this please let me know. I’d be more than happy to help where I can.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,
(Name Omitted)

This is just one example of a follow up email you can draw inspiration from if you’re seeking collaboration with a blogger or social media manager.  If you are doing PR outreach to gain attention for your product or service, you may want to hire someone or spend a little more time crafting a pitch that grabs attention.

Give it time for a response (up to 2 days), don’t stalk. Follow up with a quick, polite email if you haven’t heard anything back. But don’t stalk.  It’s creepy and annoying and won’t earn any kind of brownie points.  

Generally, if a blogger is interested and you have given him/her a way to respond quickly with a quick “yes, I’m interested tell me more” email, she will write back soon. 

Note when contacting magazine editors: If the email addresses are not available online, you can call and ask for the specific editors’ email address if it is a magazine like Conde Nast or Hearst Publications.

 

 

Here’s an example of WHAT NOT TO DO:


Dear Company,
(Error #1: She didn’t  even know my name.  I have made my contact info really easy to find)

My name is Name Omitted and I am a fashion student at University Name Omitted. Recently I started a fashion blog (Where’s the link?) and I have been gaining a fair amount of interest in it (How much?). At the moment my followers are still quite low (How low are we talking about here?) however I hope that you can help me! (um.) I would love to collaborate with your brand! (Why?) This could be in a number of different ways.
I have listed some ideas.
1. -Exchange of clothing for posts on my social media and blog. (This would normally be a good idea for a business that produces products, if you have a large following or audience. It’s a win-win for everyone.  Clothing costs a lot of money to give away. If you are a blogger without a following, asking for goods in exchange for promoting to a crowd of crickets is not attractive to a company.  Build up your following before requesting free goods in exchange for promotional posts)
2. -A discount code that I can share with my followers. (This is a better idea)
3. -I could model a look book for your brand and post this on my social media. (This might be OK. I still need your website, blog and social media links)
4. -You could provide me with a small discount so I could buy a few of your clothes and post on social media. (Not a bad idea)
Or if you have your own suggestion feel free to share that with me! If you are interested I would love to have a chance to speak with you.
I hope to hear from you soon,

Kind regards,
Name Omitted


Her email wasn’t offensive and she was sweet and polite. But I immediately saw where she could improve.  (I did write her back, btw, and we did collaborate)

Let’s look at an example of how she could have approached a product exchange collaboration with a well-researched and well-crafted email that would have given her immediate, positive results:

Subj.: Let’s Collaborate!

Dear Ava,

My name is [ NAME ] and I am a fashion blogger and a student at [UNIVERSITY/SCHOOL] studying Fashion Design. I recently discovered your brand on Instagram and I love your colorful collection as well as your brand statement.  Although I am new to blogging, I would really love to collaborate with you on an Instagram project.  I currently have XXX Followers on Instagram and XXX Subscribers on my blog, with XXX visits per day. You can check out my blog at: Insert title and blog link here   and my Instagram account:  @instagramnamehere

I would love to discuss various ways in which we can collaborate. (i.e. A discount code for my Followers or a discount on your products in exchange for my blog posting and Instagram “look of the day”). If this is something you would be interested in, I look forward to hearing from you!

Best Regards,
[Blogger Name]


 

Example of a good PR Product Pitch:

Dear Whitney,

I wanted to reach out to you because I have a brand new bicycle bag collection that would be an excellent fit for your audience of fashion-savvy professionals.  The brand is Carmichael Bike Bags and we are scheduled to launch on 2/12 with an estimated global reach of over 250,000 viewers per week.

We have just recently received a write-up in Fast Company and VeloJoy, and the momentum is growing. In exchange for your mention, we would be happy to add your post link and logo to our website.

If you are interested, please let me know and I can provide hi-res photos and any other info you need. Thank you!
Best Regards,
Ava Carmichael

[Provide links and contact info]


 

I am interested to hear what has worked for you?

Business

Why You Need to Be Your Own Competition

I have been a fashion designer for the last 10 years. Within that time, I worked for a few successful start-ups and well-established companies, as well as created and launched a few independent labels for myself and other clients. What I discovered quickly, was that many had the resources set aside for creating the initial product, but they were missing a few vital elements in building and maintaining a solid brand. Few were open to deep market research, investing in solid branding and marketing, or changing the product to stay ahead of competition.

Everyone is fighting to be relevant, whether it’s from a personal branding, or a company/product standpoint. Now more than ever, the need to create a product with buzz factor is essential. Sometimes that means refreshing or even reinventing your product(s) more than you’d like. Yes, change can be really hard at times.  It’s not always cost efficient and it takes time to readjust. But if it’s necessary for growth, it must be done. Don’t let fear or your ego get in the way. If objectives haven’t been met or sales, traffic, etc. hasn’t improved after a year or two, stop saying, “I know what I’m doing, I don’t need to do it different”. Or, “I can’t” or “I’m afraid to change”.

Remember that scene in Superman III, where Good Superman and Bad Superman have a duel at the scrapyard?  Both had the same set of tools to fight with, but one was willing to fight a little dirtier than the other. You have to be willing to split into two parts and look at your company through the eyes of the bad Superman self and be willing to be your own enemy in order to be your best objective advice.

You have ask, “Is this product as awesome as it could be?
How can I make it different or better?” Is your product a compelling story, and does it fill a need in the market?

The beginning stages of product or company development involves an in-depth and honest evaluation. Before you even sit down to create or market Widget A, you have to determine if it has legs first. Do painstaking market research. Who is your competition, both directly and indirectly? What are they doing? What are their failures and successes? How can you do it better?  Treat your product as though it’s already launched and YOU are now the competition.  Approach your product and/or business model as an outsider with hyper-critical thinking and constructive criticism. Keep in mind that your current competitors may not always be your most “dangerous” competitors. The obvious competition is well, obvious. But pay attention to internal employees with innovative ideas that are shot down, the small team of young, disruptive innovators or even your own vendors.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that a factory I was using was not only trying to offer my product cheaper under their own label, but they were using my photos to sell my design knockoff product.

An unexpected competitor launches a product that is completely different to your (and your perceived competitors’) existing, established product, but which accomplishes the things your customers want better than your products can do. They are, of course, disruptive innovators. And, if you do not pay attention, you will not notice the threat they pose to your business until your customer base begins to evaporate and you have to go into damage control mode to save your business.
– Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner

Brand building and maintaining relevancy is as important as the product itself. It’s not enough to just create a great product initially and ride that train until the wheels fall off. Failing to change, even a little, along the way may mean you’ll be left too far behind to make even the slightest impact later.  It isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ crock-pot. In order to stay relevant in business, you either have to create something that stands above all others the first time, or be open to constant change.

Think ahead in terms of what the natural progressive steps, if any, may be. Already BE there mentally.  Obviously, if something is steaming ahead out of the gate, it doesn’t need changing right away. But you should always keep some next-step, progressive ideas in your back pocket, ready to launch when the moment strikes.